Photographer – Amy Helmick

Can you please describe when you first became interested in photography? Is it been something you have always wanted to do?

The first photo I ever took was when I was 6 years old. It was a photo of my 1st-grade teacher taken with my Dad’s point-and-shoot. Dad used to tell the story that I was always begging him to “put fumes in the camera”. Though I always enjoyed photography, it was not until age 36 that I got into the medium in earnest. At that time I took a darkroom class at our local community college just for fun. From the moment I saw my first photo developing I was hooked. I haven’t looked back since.

Is there a specific process you go through to create your images?

I believe there are basically two types of images: found images where you come across something that catches your eye (great light, good expressions, etc) and created images where the idea and concept come first before the making of the piece. I enjoy working in both ways. 

With found images, I strive to get the capture technically how I want it in camera as much as possible and then further tweak to enhance the piece with post-processing. While I very much enjoy this way of working, I find that created images are even more satisfying. My ideas for a piece often times come from an emotion, thought, or a dream (both the ones during sleep and the aspirational ones). Once I have the concept in my mind, I do a little sketch and spend some time working out the practicalities (e.g. “Who do I know that owns a snake I can photograph?”, “What should the lighting be?” “Will I need any additional props or assistants?”). After that, the real fun begins: actually doing the shoot and then taking the resulting shots into post where I adjust them to my vision.

“Dinner for One” – Copyright Amy Hemlick

In your opinion, what makes a good photograph? How do you decide when something you create meets or exceeds your expectations?

I’ve always felt that a good photograph tells a story, or at least makes you wonder about the story. Even “straightforward” images like portraits or landscapes need to have enough interest to make me wonder about the narrative.

How do you describe your photographic style when you meet someone for the first time?

That’s a difficult question to answer. Of late, I’ve settled on “moody”. I’m afraid some of my friends would just say “weird”. I think it’s the story element that I was speaking of earlier that makes me create images that are often “off the beaten path”.

“Dorothy in Black Lace” – Copyright Amy Hemlick

One of my favourite galleries is called The Obesity Series” Can you tell us the reasons behind the series?

As a person who has fallen into the category of obese for most of my life, I am very familiar with the complex emotions and societal effects on the obese individual. Not to sound too “woo-woo”, but I have had a knowing for a very long time that self portraiture would be a way to better undertand and heal my relationship to my own body. I have avoided it for years (and honestly still do sometimes) because even being alone in the studio doing self-portraits, it’s a very vulnerable feeling to be in front of a camera. I am not an activist by anyone’s definition; though I know that of late our society is starting to really focus on body image and I think that’s a good thing. I also realize I can’t very well ask a client to be open and vulnerable in front of my lens if I’m not willing to go there myself.

I was lucky enough to study with Brooke Shaden in a business development class a couple of years ago. One of the assignments was to discover our how to use our unique experiences and perspective to create a business that best serves others. That’s really when “The Obesity Series” was born.

Starting all over again today, what would you do differently? 

Two things: firstly, I wish I had managed the GAS syndrome better (for those who don’t know, that’s “gear acquisition syndrome”). Almost every experienced photographer I know gives this advice, and very few seem to be able to resist the urge to believe they “need” that new gadget of the moment, including me. 

Secondly, I wish I had been more persistent in tackling obstacles. I started photography in the darkroom days and every bit of digital post-processing knowledge that I have today has been hard won. I feel like I would be farther along if I’d kept at the problem solving a little more diligently instead of giving in to frustration along the way.

Deb, Swim Portrait” – Copyright Amy Hemlick

Can you please let me know what your current camera & lens setup is? Which software do you use to edit your pictures?

I’m a fan of Fuji gear. As I said, I’m pretty old school, so the buttons and dials really make me happy. Currently I use a GFX 50S for studio work and the X-T3 when I’m out and about. I really love both of these cameras. My favorite studio lens is the Fuji 45mm. On the X-T3 I use the Fuji 18-135 and the 35mm F2.0. Also I recently obtained a Laowa 65mm macro lens. I’m having fun learning a bit of macro.

As far as post processing goes, I use Capture One (I really like tethering when in studio. C1 makes that process so easy.) I use Photoshop for heavy editing and pull out Topaz products when needed for sharpening and resizing. Also, I almost always do any toning work with Infinite Tools.

Do you think social media sites restrict content creators or make them more creative in finding different ways to express themselves? 

I’m probably not the best person to ask about that. I have a definite love/hate relationship with social media. I love that it has given us the ability to interact with people from all over the world and to see so many different art genres, products and opportunities. On the less positive side, I dislike very much that Social easily becomes a hungry monster wanting more and more of your time. Currently I am a stills photographer and haven’t gotten into video thing much at all. I honestly don’t post as much as I “should” for SEO and all that.

“Temptation” – Copyright Amy Hemlick

What advice would you give some looking to take up photography?

Take the time to find your personal “why” and to discover what you love to photograph; and realize that it DOES take time. Enjoy the exploration and try not to be swayed by the “whys” of others.

Do you have any goals you want to achieve in the next 2 years?

I would love to continue expanding the Obesity Series to include other individuals and have gallery showings exhibiting that work. Other projects, such as expanding the Dream Series, come to mind as well. The ability to make a sustainable income by creating meaningful photographs for myself and others seems like a pretty good life to me.

Thank you so much Amy for taking the time to chat with me. Want to check out more of Amy’s work?

Link below to Amy’s Instagram Profiles

FineArt Photography / Portrait Photography / Street Photography

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